June 24, 2011

Game Changing Gadgets That Aren’t [Opinions] – UPDATED

DaddyTips Rant

This list of “10 game-changing gadgets” from a panel of tech journalists (via ZDNet) is amusingly stupid. Let’s go through them one by one. (Note: this is more of an opinion piece than a rant. But I like my DaddyTips Rant graphic. And I do rant a little bit.)

UPDATED 6/27/11: see below for an update on the OnLive Game System, which can be used on an iPad and may include a controller. That could actually be a significant product if anybody notices enough to use it.

#1 is “Software/App is the new gadget”, which is a kludge at best. I guess there’s some truth to that one, but it’s not a gadget. Apps are the big thing right now, but for a tech journalist, this is kind of like announcing that water is wet.

#2, the Eye-Fi Memory Card, isn’t even new and I doubt many folks will use it. Why not? Because they didn’t the last time it was introduced. This version is cheaper and supposedly works better, but still isn’t as easy to use as it would need to be in order to gain mass adoption, according to David Pogue.

#3, “OnLive Game System and other set-top boxes”, could be a good prediction. The Roku box is extremely cool, cheap, and easy to use. But most people stick with cable companies because it’s just easier. Long-term I could see more people using these, particularly once you have a generation that grew up with all manner of digital devices. The difference in how quickly my youngest child adapts to a new piece of technology as compared to my older one is fascinating. It’s not that the older kid has trouble with technology, far from it. He’s constantly showing me OSX shortcuts that I knew nothing about; I’ll post a list one of these days; some are extremely useful. Think about it — any kid born today will never know a world without the iPad, Facebook, and so on. At some point there won’t be a generation that remembers what it was like to actually own music and movies rather than pay for a cloud-based streaming service. At the moment, though, there are technical hurdles to get over if you want to be a Roku household. Cable is just easier for the majority of the population.

UPDATE: I stumbled onto this hands-on slideshow of the OnLive service. Apparently you can use it on the iPad, and the company has plans to sell an iPad-compatible Bluetooth controller — eventually, maybe, in theory. That could be something people would use. Not me people, but some other people.

#4 is Health Gadgets; I have no idea if they’re right about that one. #5 is the HTC Thunderbolt 4G/LTE, which I’ve seen and am tempted by. Mostly the panelists were impressed by the speed of the 4G network, according to ZDNet, as well as the screen size. I’m thinking that my next cell phone will be 4G have a bigger-than-I-had-before screen, kind of a tablet-but-not-quite. I’d like something with a keyboard, so I’m holding out.

#6? The iPad 2. I just got one of my very own for Father’s Day, and it’s cool. But again, this is like announcing the wetness of water.

#7 is the Chromebook. Except that nobody seems to give a crap about the Chromebook. My take: it’s a step backwards to the dumb terminals and mainframes of my youth. What’s next, the return of the TRS-80? 16k of memory? Thermal printer that prints on rolls of toilet paper? Sign me up!

#8, the Nintendo Wii U. Not out until 2012. Will be popular unless it totally sucks, which is unlikely. Dumb choice.

#9 is MusicLites, which is confirmation that this list is not in fact about “game changing gadgets”, unless the game being changed is headlines that reflect what an article is actually about. MusicLites are lightbulbs with speakers in them. It’s sort of a cool idea if it works. Here’s a video:

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Got that? Sure you do. Too complicated for mass consumer adoption, and the folks in the article think this is an “insane idea”. So why is it on the list?

#10 is the Motorola Atrix 4G + dock. Supposedly the concept is better than the execution (see above). If anyone on the panel bothered to do some research, they would know that keyboard-based devices have failed frequently. I know this because that’s what I always want — a small computing device that turns on instantly and has a useable keyboard. The first PDA I owned was the NEC MobilePro 450, and I loved it. Great keyboard, standard PCMCIA slot for expansion (memory cards, dial-up modem), small enough to take anywhere. Nobody cared. Also had the HP Jornada 820, which someone on Amazon is selling for $145. If it’s in good shape, that’s a bargain. This page talks about installing Linux onto the 820 and explains why it’s a cool device. Once again, nobody cared. People don’t seem to like small devices with keyboards. So even if the Atrix worked perfectly, it would probably fail.

CE Week 2011: 10 game-changing gadgets of the year | ZDNet